Analysis & Opinions - The Boston Globe

Trump and Putin Face an Urgent Arms Control Deadline in Helsinki

| July 12, 2018

As US-Russian relations continue to deteriorate, Presidents Trump and Putin appear eager to find common ground on arms control when they meet in Helsinki on Monday. The reason for their urgency is clear: The framework that has stabilized the US-Russian strategic balance since the fall of the Soviet Union is in danger of collapsing.

While there seem to be no easy solutions to our differences over Crimea and Syria, and no prospects of satisfactory answers to charges of cybercrime and election-meddling, arms control appears rather straightforward by comparison. The United States and Russia share a strong interest in avoiding a destabilizing arms race. Above all, both countries understand that increasing the number of deployed nuclear weapons would make the world a more dangerous place.

Meaningful progress on arms control would represent an important first step toward rebuilding lost trust in Russian-American relations. A productive, good-faith negotiation would establish a foundation from which diplomats could reach for more ambitious goals.

Trump should agree now to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) for five years, per Article XIV of the original agreement. The deal was signed in 2010, achieved full implementation earlier this year, and will expire in February 2021 if not extended.

Extending New START is essential to preserving strategic stability. The treaty limits the United States and Russia to 1,550 deployed warheads and facilitates detailed information-sharing and mutual inspections. Thus far, the parties have exchanged more than 15,000 notifications and performed 15 on-site inspections. If these verification measures were to end, the risks of misperception and miscalculation would rise sharply and compound the escalatory pressures of unbridled nuclear rearmament.

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For Academic Citation: Samore, Gary and Alex O'Neill.“Trump and Putin Face an Urgent Arms Control Deadline in Helsinki.” The Boston Globe, July 12, 2018.